Changing Your Last Name After Divorce

Many women want to return to their maiden name after they divorce. While it’s not difficult to do, it’s important to do it correctly to avoid problems in the future.

In Pennsylvania, you may resume a prior surname at any time during your divorce proceeding by filing a written notice with the Prothonotary of the county in which your divorce was filed or in which your divorce decree was entered. This notice provides the Prothonotary with the caption and docket number of your divorce. If you got divorced outside of Pennsylvania, you must also attach your divorce decree to the notice.

After you provide this notice and obtain your Name Change Order, you may change other legal documents. For example, if you legally changed your name and obtained a corrected Social Security card when you married, you will need to update it again to reflect your maiden name. To do this, bring a certified copy of the Name Change Order to your local Social Security Office. They will take care of the remaining steps. Failing to obtain a corrected Social Security card may prevent your wages from being correctly accounted for on your Social Security record and this may lower your future Social Security benefits. Failing to obtain an updated card may also cause delays when you file your taxes.

You will also need to update or obtain a REAL ID. Beginning May 3, 2023, Pennsylvanians will be required to have a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license to board domestic flights and enter federal buildings. When obtaining a REAL ID, you will need to provide proof of all legal name changes if your current full legal name is different than what is shown on your proof of identity document.  To prove your name change, you may use original or certified copies of your marriage certificate, Name Change Order, or your divorce decree.

Divorce isn’t the only reason you may wish to change your name, and your new name might not be the only change you wish to make on important, official documents. There are also different rules for changing your name after divorce depending on your citizenship status. Whether you want to change your name because of your divorce, or to make it match your gender identity, the attorneys at the Law Offices of Jennifer J. Riley can help. Give us a call and find out how we can help you Protect What Matters Most!   

Spouses’ Election to Keep Married Name

In the United States, your surname may give you a sense of self and of belonging. For women who have changed their names upon marriage, a subsequent divorce raises the question:  should I take back my own last name?  There are several reasons some women may prefer to keep their married surname after a divorce. For example, she might wish to have the same last name as the children, or there may be professional reasons that she identifies with the name, preferring not to start building a professional reputation from scratch. For example, Victoria Beckham rose to fame in the Spice Girls empire at the same time as her marriage to David Beckham. When someone mentions Victoria Beckham, nearly everyone knows her.  However, if someone were to call her by her maiden name, Victoria Adams, few would know her.  .

You may also opt to keep your married name for simpler reasons, such as it being easier to pronounce than your maiden name or because you remember the hassles of changing your name (including getting a new passport, driver’s license, and updating the Social Security Administration as well as all financial institutions).  Many men ask us if it is possible to require their ex-wives to change their last names to their maiden names. It is not possible to require anyone to change back to a prior surname.  This is only the choice of the person carrying the name, even if it was not her birth name.

For many women, the choice to change their last names back to their prior surname is an important and liberating step in the divorce process.  For some women, taking back their identify from before the marriage is critical to the divorce process.  Taking someone’s last name upon marriage is a symbol of unity, and many wish to sever the legal and emotional connections with the former spouse upon the divorce. Please note that name changes upon divorce are not automatic.  If you wish to change your last name, you may do so as early as the day after you file for divorce.  You can also do so after the divorce is granted.  We can help you through the process and answer any questions you have regarding this important decision.